Leaders from the Cord coalition want President Uhuru Kenyatta to withdraw Kenyan soldiers from Somalia over a United Nations report that linked the troops to the sale of illegal charcoal from that country.
The leaders — including ODM national chairman John Mbadi, Cord management committee head Eseli Simiyu, Wiper vice-chair Mutula Kilonzo Jr, ODM political affairs secretary Opiyo Wandayi, ODM treasurer Timothy Bosire and deputy National Assembly Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo — said the troops have embarrassed the country in the international arena.
Speaking to the Nation by phone, Mr Mbadi accused President Kenyatta of rushing to withdraw Kenyan troops from South Sudan following the sacking of Lt-Gen Johnson Ondieki, the Kenyan commander of the UN Mission in South Sudan, but doing nothing to call back home those doing illicit business in Somalia.
Last Friday, the United Nations released a report indicating that Kenyan troops in Somalia were receiving fees for allowing illicit exports of charcoal from a port under their control — a statement that seemed to have strained further the global body’s relationship with the Kenyan government.
According to the report, the soldiers reap as much as Sh1.2 billion a year from charcoal exports, which were banned by the UN Security Council in 2012 in an effort to cut off funding for the Somalia-based Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab.
The government, through State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu, however, dismissed the report, calling it “hogwash masquerading as research.”
However, Mr Mbadi claimed that the charcoal trade is lucrative, adding that the proceeds are benefiting some senior government officials.
“We are aware the government is against the KDF return[ing] from Somalia because they are enjoying the huge budget for defence that is being embezzled through corruption,” he said.
Mr Simiyu said the UN report has confirmed what they have been saying about the KDF soldiers’ illicit business in Somalia.
“The best action for Kenya is to withdraw from Somalia and station our troops at the Kenya-Somalia border,” said Mr Simiyu, who is also the Tongaren member of Parliament.
Mr Kilonzo said Kenya’s occupation of Somalia has outlived its purpose.
“Let us dismiss this UN report at our own peril. If we can pull our forces from South Sudan [because] of a diplomatic row, what justification do we have to keep our forces in Somali yet we are being accused of economic sabotage?”
Mr Wandayi said the government and Kenyans must take the UN report seriously since it confirms what was already suspected.
“The solution lies in the government withdrawing all Kenyan soldiers from Somalia. Their continued stay [there] is untenable,” he said.
The Ugunja MP added that the troops’ original mandate in Somalia has been executed.
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